Top positive review
Better than "Jedi Knight", but also MUCH harder
on July 24, 2003
"Jedi Knight: Outcast" is the third of first-person shooter games set in the "Star Wars" Universe that began with "Dark Forces" (1994) and continued into "Jedi Knight" (or JK) (1997). As before, you become "Kyle Katarn" - an ex-Imperial commando turned mercenary, rebel scout and Jedi. Although Outcast has the action and puzzles combined with sound and graphics faithful to Star Wars of the older games, it ramps up the action with the "QuakeIII: Arena" engine, with harder puzzles and longer and more complex level-maps than before. Puzzles are more counterintuitive, enemies fiercer, coordination requirements more precise and some mission demands much more...demanding. In short, unlike other games, Outcast has some stiff hardware requirements for you, not jut your PC.
STORY: If you played JK (and decided not to play as a "dark" jedi) you may recall saving the "Valley of the Jedi" from evil. Now working for the "New Republic" nee rebellion, and having renounced the force, Katarn and the lovely Jan Ors weed out pockets of ex-Imperial forces called "the Remnant". Enroute to infiltrating a Remnant stringhold, Kyle and Jan are warned of Remnant interest in the Valley of the Jedi. Soon they learn that Galak Fyar, a remnant boss, is allied with a dark Jedi named Desann. Desann finds the Valley and uses it to empower an army of warriors called "Reborn". Katarn follows this combined enemy from an Imperial prison to Nar Shadaa (a sort of interglactic truck stop); from the lofty plaza's of Bespin's Cloud City to the labyrinthine interior of a Remnant stonghold hidden in an asteroid belt. Eventually, you'll return to Yavin Four (the moon that hosted a hidden rebel base in the first SW flick; now its home to the Jedi academy. If you remember the first flick, you'll see that the game expands on the location while staying faithful to what you saw on screen). Now Katarn is forced to return and relearn the Force (but not before Luke Skywalker subjects him to an elaborate obstacle course, one which tests your coordination and force powers).
DOES IT ROCK? Outcast is mind-blowing, but less of gaming or entertainment leap than JK was. Much of JK's appeal was its mix of both great gaming technology (c. 1997), graphics and sound with a storyline that linked "missions" into a single plot (like an interactive SW movie). Outcast is more like "Dark Forces" - meandering back & forth from one planet to the next. While the organization of levels becomes more plot-like as Outcast progresses, levels themselves, remain unstructured. The first level is a perfect example: you've infiltrated a Remnant base, only to be told that you must explore it. Explore? For what? It's just an excuse to keep you prowling hallways, killing stormtroopers, nabbing power-ups and pass keys. Also, the levels are so long, it's easy to lose focus, making them seem as uninspired as one of those 3rd party levels that fans make and distribute on the internet. Outcast is a long game - Raven probably remembered the complaints they got about"Star Trek: Elite Force", their last QuakeIII shooter. At a leisuerly pace, I could finish ST:EF in about a week. It took me over a month to complete Outcast. How hard is Outcast? Let's just say it will severely test your resolve to stay out of cheat mode and away from wealkthroughs. Besides the puzzles and coordination tests (is it really that hard to walk along a ledge?), you'll face hoards of enemies who fear no Ewoks, or turn yellow when you force-yank their guns away. (Stormtroopers in this game move fast, laugh at blaster fire, and won't die without some John-Woo style flying death-spin. These aren't 1977-83 model Jedi-Mind-Trick-Prone troopers. Step aside? I think not!!) There are also assassins who can snipe you from miles away, and hoards of Reborn who make every level a boss-level.
BUT DOES IT ROCK? Though harder and longer(!?!?!?), there's some imagination lacking. The graphics engine is great, but it's still another reiteration of Quake and, lets face it, we got this game because we wanted to more of something we've already seen hundreds of times since the Carter administration. Outcast tosses in some new tricks - like being able to throw your lightsbaer around like "Captain America's" shield, but it all boils down to JK with better graphics. Near the end, when you're depositited back on Yavin 4, the game pulls out all the stops (Yavin 4 is a world of swamps and canyons which creates challenges unlike anything you'd have seen in the rest of the game; you must fight your way through a remnant armored assault to get back to the Jedi academy, You get to drive an imperial scout-walker - the game's only driveable vehicle; adding vehicles might have conjured up bad memories of "Rebel Assault" or "Rogue Squadron". Confronted with Yavin 4, I had to wonder why they waited til the end to notch things up to "11". Outcast tosses in only a few SW characters - Luke Skywalker, but mostly in cut-scenes; Lando Calrissian has a more substantial role - good choice there, he was sorely underused in the movies, while his appearance here is a prelude to the Bespin level - my personal fave. The game also uses the in-game engine for cut-scenes, junking the FMV scenes of the last game. (Most players hated the FMV, but I loved them - it was like a preview of a long-waited SW movie. The scenes looked cool, and that was before we had "Phantom Menace" to compare them to.)
In short, not a game that will completely make you forget "Jedi Knight", but one that will keep you too busy to remember it that much. I ran this game on my P4-2Ghz system, with WinXP and a GeForce card and it ran smooth as butter. Not all OpenGL graphics cards are supported - check LA's website before you buy this game.